Thursday, January 1, 2009

Squirrels - friend or family?

Bill and I have been observing some squirrels in our backyard over the past two days.  Bill saw these two at the feeder (I missed that) and then, a bit later, I saw them playing in the tree just outside the gate.  One is a black (or very deep brown) squirrel and the other is grey with a lighter belly.  We wondered if two different color squirrels could be family.  If not, are they friends playing, or enemies competing for food, with one trying to chase the other away.  My vote is that they are enjoying a good play session.  Friend or family, I have no idea. 
Here, the grey one is chasing the black one across the garage roof.  I only caught the tail of the black one.
We watched the black one try for some time to get up on the tray but he never did make it.  That surprised both of us, as squirrels' athleticism is well known.  Maybe he was too heavy, or maybe they need wood or some other material for their claws to grip.
Here, I'm quite sure he was watching us watch him through the window.
Today, we saw this other little black fellow.  I first saw him huddled in a corner by the back door.  Later, Bill saw him eating out of the tray, so unlike the larger one, he was able to make it up at least once.  We saw him try again later, but this time, after three attempts, he gave up.  We both wondered if he is just a small, sickly squirrel, or whether he is possibly the offspring of the larger black one shown above.  We are both concerned for him, and hoping the seeds and nuts we've put out might help him to gain some weight and grow some healthier fur.  He appears to have good energy, as he went back and forth several times from the tray to my neighbor's garden, I think burying his cache there.  I've included several pictures of him, as I find him both endearing and pathetic at the same time.  I could tell Bill also has a soft spot in his heart for this little one.  


  1. I love squirrels, and I love to watch their antics. They are one of my favourite things about walking around the UBC campus. The little one does look bright-eyed but not so bushy-tailed. Maybe mange?

  2. My first thought was mange, also - not at all unusual with young squirrels. I have seen a whole family of young ones become completely bald due to mange - three survived, one did not. The other possibility is that it is moulting (black squirrels moult twice a year, and develop bald patches and a very scruffy, sparse tail during that time) but if so, it has its seasons all confused!
    Unless, of course, it is a sign that we are in for an early spring - wishful thinking on my part!

  3. Yes, dp and Jean, I have a strong feeling you're right about it being mange. Does mange ever get better on its own? Bill did say, when he saw the squirrel today, the tail looked quite a bit fuller. The fur was still very thin, but he could no longer see the bony structure. He's thinking the squirrel may have been wet yesterday.